Construction work is one of the most dangerous careers in the Show-Me state. Electrocution is one of the most common causes of fatal workplace accidents in construction jobs. In fact, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists electrocution as one of the “fatal four” causes of construction worker deaths. Sadly, all too often failures to adhere to workplace safety standards can get construction workers electrocuted while simply carrying out their regular work-related tasks. Injured construction workers and their families may have legal options for relief, such as workers’ compensation insurance or a personal injury lawsuit. Electrocution burns and injuries are grievous, with long, painful recovery that can leave the victim out of work for months. A Missouri workplace injury lawyer from Steelman Gaunt Crowley can help you learn about your legal options in a free consultation. Call (573) 341-8336 to schedule yours.
Can You Sue if You Are Almost Electrified at Work?
Whether you can file a lawsuit for a near-electrocution on a work site depends on whether you were injured, who caused the incident, and whether, if you were injured, your medical care is covered by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. If you were unhurt, but the careless actions of another party gave you a near-miss, you may not have many legal options since you are unhurt. However, if a third party, like a subcontractor or vendor, caused the accident, then you may have an option to file a third-party lawsuit against them.
According to the Missouri Courts, the process for filing third-party lawsuits to receive compensation for workplace injuries differs from that involved in filing a workers’ comp claim with the employer’s insurance provider. Workers’ compensation covers your medical care, rehabilitation, and vocational retraining, plus a wage benefit. Injured employees do not receive any kind of compensation for pain and suffering or emotional trauma under workers’ comp. However, if a third party caused an accident that nearly electrocuted a company employee, then that employee might be able to file a lawsuit against that party for damages, seeking compensation for pain and suffering or emotional trauma, in addition to any compensation for medical expenses and other losses the employee has incurred as a result of the accident.
How Many Construction Workers Are Electrocuted Each Year?
OSHA reported four deaths related to workplace electrocution in Kansas and Missouri within a five-month period in 2021. The OSHA press release urging for renewed attention to workplace safety precautions cited information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing an increase in construction workers electrocuted, overall in the country, including electrocutions with fatal results. OSHA created a specific initiative for preventing electrocution accidents in St. Louis in an effort to raise awareness of the dangers of electrocution.
Even if an electrocution accident is not fatal, the victim can suffer serious, life-changing injuries that leave them permanently disabled, scarred, or unable to work in the same capacity. The National Library of Medicine notes that the degree of injury from electrocution often depends on the voltage, resistance, and the type of current. Victims of a non-lethal electrocution accident may suffer:
- Permanent heart damage
- Skin damage and burns
- Internal injuries and internal organ damage
Unfortunately, many victims suffer multiple injuries and could require skin grafts or painful surgery to recover. Those who suffer heart damage may have limited mobility or be unable to return to daily activities to which they were accustomed before the accident.
What Is the Number One Cause of Electrical Deaths on Construction Sites?
Safety violations are a leading cause of electrical accidents on construction sites. Many sites have live wires or may have ungrounded wires. In these conditions, safety is paramount. Procedures such as turning off equipment before performing repairs, lock out/ tag out protocols, and always assuming that any wire is hot can help reduce accidental electrocutions. An experienced workers’ compensation and personal injury attorney with Steelman Gaunt Crowley may be able to help you to determine whether any workplace safety violations may apply to your case.
Responsibility for Safety Protocols
If a construction company or foreman does not enforce adequate workplace safety protocols, workers can get hurt. In most situations, the site foreman or company manager holds primary responsibility for ensuring that all new hires are properly trained for electrical safety and understand the procedures for ensuring wires and other electrical equipment are safe.
Vendor and Subcontractor Responsibility
Vendors and subcontractors performing work on a construction site must also adhere to industry-standard electrical safety. A subcontractor who does not follow the site protocols for electric safety can create conditions that increase the electrocution risks for regular workers. In these situations, the fault for the accident may not just be that of the construction site owner or manager but also of the subcontractor, whose negligence created unsafe conditions.
What Are 3 Examples of Electrical Dangers on a Construction Site?
OHSA lists multiple potential electrical hazards for construction sites:
- Improper grounding of wires or electrical equipment
- Poorly insulated wires or damaged insulation
- Faulty equipment and tools
- Overhead power lines
- Exposed electrical parts
- Overloaded circuits
- Inadequate wiring
- Wet conditions
Many of these conditions are easily preventable with attention to safety and proper care.
Workers’ Comp or Personal Injury Lawsuit: Which Applies in My Case?
Missouri workers’ compensation insurance is intended to ensure that injured workers have access to high-quality medical care, including specialist care or skin grafts. A standard workers’ compensation insurance policy also protects workers from returning to full duty before they are completely healed by providing a wage-replacement benefit for medically necessary time off work. Many workplace accidents will be eligible for workers’ compensation coverage. Workers’ comp also protects employers from being sued by injured workers. In many cases, an employee’s only option for covering medical bills and wage losses is through workers’ comp.
Construction site electrical injury victims may be eligible to file a lawsuit for damages, either in addition to or in place of a workers’ compensation claim. If the accident was caused by a third party, like a vendor or subcontractor, or if the injured individual was a construction site visitor and was harmed because of someone’s negligence, then the injured person may have grounds to seek compensation from a personal injury lawsuit. If you are having trouble getting a workers’ comp claim paid, or need professional legal advice about whether a third-party lawsuit applies to you, consult a lawyer well-versed in Missouri personal injury and workers’ compensation laws.
Do You Need a Construction Site Injury Lawyer?
Have you been harmed in an electrical accident at a construction site? Are you worried about how your medical bills will be paid or worried about missing work? If you have become one of the many construction workers electrocuted on job sites, consider contacting Steelman Gaunt Crowley, Missouri construction accident injury lawyers, today at (573) 341-8336 for a free consultation about your case.